Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Ohio Statesmen
by [?]

The men who have given distinction to our state in politics could hardly be more than named in a record like this; and I shall not try to speak of them all or try to keep any order in my mention of them except the alphabetical order of the counties where they were born, or where they lived.

From Ashtabula County, the names that will come at once to the reader’s mind are those of Joshua R. Giddings and Benjamin F. Wade, both of a national fame inseparable from the history of the struggle with slavery. Giddings was first to cast his lot with the almost hopeless cause of freedom, but the fiery nature of Wade served to keep it warm in the hearts of its later adherents and to spread its light. Neither of these great Ohioans were Ohioans by birth. Giddings was born in Athens, Pennsylvania, in 1795, and came to Ashtabula County in 1806, where he dwelt until within a few years of his death, which took place at Montreal in 1864, while he was Consul General for Canada. He studied law, and succeeded at the bar before he entered political life. He was then twenty years in Congress as representative from the Ashtabula district, which promptly returned him when he was expelled from the House of Representatives for presenting a petition against slavery. His courage was so unconscious that he seemed never to assert it in his long career of defiance at Washington, but it never failed him in the presence of the dangers that often beset him there. In early life his people were desperately poor; he had scarcely a thought of school till he was twenty-three, and it was not until he had conquered from the wilderness a farm for his father and himself that he found time for study. He always loved the simplicity of the new country, and when he came home to the village of Jefferson from the sessions of Congress, he liked to “turn himself out to grass,” as he called it: to put on old clothes and a straw hat, and walk barefoot through the streets which he had known when they were forest trails.

Wade was born at Hills Parish, Massachusetts, in 1800, and he too was born in utter poverty. He worked on a farm, and then worked with pick and spade on the Erie Canal; but by the time he was twenty-one he knew much science and philosophy through studies he had pursued in a woodchopper’s hut by the light of pine knots. In Jefferson he read law and became Giddings’s partner. He was sent to the United States Senate in 1851 as an antislavery Whig, and he continued to stand four-square for freedom there during nearly twenty years. He was frank, bluff, even harsh in his speech and manner, but kind at heart, and it is told of him that once when he discovered a wretched neighbor robbing his corn crib, he moved out of sight that the man might not know he had been caught in the misdeed to which want had driven him.

Thomas Ewing, at one time United States senator from Ohio, and at all times a leading statesman and lawyer, was a citizen of Athens County, where his father settled in 1798. There the boy led the backwoods life, and struggled with all its adversities in his love of books, until he was nineteen. He loved the woods, too, and his boyhood was not unhappy, though his ambition was for the things of the mind. In his reminiscences, he tells of his early privations and of his delight in the first books which came to his hands: the “Vicar of Wakefield,” which he learned largely by heart, and the “Aeneid” of Virgil, which he used to read aloud to the farm hands on Sundays, and at such other leisure times as they all had amidst the work of clearing the land. At nineteen, he went to earn some money at the Salines on the Kanawha, and then lavished it upon the luxury of three months’ study at Athens. After several years’ labor in the salt works, he entered college at Athens, teaching school between terms, and going to Gallipolis to pick up French among the survivors of the disastrous settlement there. Then he turned to the law, and won his way to ease and honor. One of his daughters, as we know, became the wife of General Sherman, whom he had adopted as his son.